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Archive for June, 2013

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. (George Orwell)

Last week while Jay and I vacationed in Colorado, a housekeeping crew caught the dust before it settled on anything. In my home dust moves much faster than I do. But it doesn’t need to be my enemy, even if it is listed among the many allergens that make me sneeze or wheeze.

Actually, the only reasons I bother cleaning are to breathe and to live without complete chaos. No innate satisfaction involved. So, to keep my mind from feeling like a soiled rag I need to think deeper than spilled soup on the stove. What lies above and below the stains? What is important? What isn’t?  What should change in my life now, and what can only happen slowly? Not always as obvious as the question sounds. It’s so easy to wipe off the surface of a problem and leave resentment behind.

When someone admits a flaw I can relate. The trick seems to be in finding a balance since I tend to be easier on others than I am on myself.

Sometimes, to clarify perspective I try to see through the eyes of someone with simpler vision. On Wednesday our five-year-old granddaughter spent the day with us. She loves spending time with Grandma. As she pretended to give birth to twins, two soft dolls stuffed under her shirt, she said, “Look, they are wearing caps.”

Impossible in the real world? Well, yes. But she is centered in childhood’s innocence. The fact that her grandparents slept until five minutes before she arrived, didn’t faze her. She needed an unmade bed for her thirty-second spontaneous doll delivery, and a too-neat bedspread would have been in the way.

Grandma plays with her. Maybe I don’t have the same spontaneity as a kindergartener. I’m a bit stiff when it comes to switching roles mid-play, and I get distracted when the pretend world creates too much clutter in the world the grown-up Grandma will need to repair later. However, there are many levels in this existence, all happening at once. Dust and grime, imagination, beauty, and infinite possibility—all coexisting. I don’t want my blackened dust cloth to distract me from the whole.

pic from Positive Inspirational Quotes

different perspective PIQ

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Some stories are true that never happened. (Elie Wiesel, writer, Nobel laureate) 

I open a desk drawer to get the fingernail clippers and get distracted by a huge bag of rubber bands. When did I buy them? And why? The answer isn’t what matters—it’s the story, locked somewhere in the past.

Who remember events that happened every summer of childhood? Well, there was that scout trip in the sixth grade. Or was it the seventh? Memory, it’s as solid as quicksand or as good a substitute for a tennis ball as a raw egg.

My husband and I were in the same room as someone told us a story; we didn’t hear the same version. I suspect that happens often. Anais Nin: “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”

Nevertheless, emotions draw from a different kind of truth. I look into the eyes of my grandchildren. Even though their perceptions may come from fantasy or a limited world view, the girls speak with fresh honesty.

Therefore, I want to be careful about the moments I leave in time. Some of the facts may be adjusted along the way, so I want to recognize the good in bad news, the beautiful in a broken glass, or the sweet possibilities in a lemon.

The bag of rubber bands has a gaping hole in its side. Many of the bands had to have been used. Perhaps a few have broken. Maybe some have bound important papers, while others found their way to the trash, or another state. Don’t know.

Truth lives in a deeper realm, a place poets touch yet never embrace. It passes through too many hearts.

heart cloud

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If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud. (Emile Zola)

On land I could never run with a lanky nine-year-old girl on my back. In the water, however, I pretend to be a horse. So does my husband—with five-year-old Rebe on his back. Jay moves much faster. In or out of the water. I’m more pony height.

When Grandma horse and Grandpa horse trade riders, Rebe gives me a name. At first it is Sleigh-ride. Then she changes it to Head-chopper. Kate turns Grandpa into a dolphin, more appropriate for the water. Imagination “reigns.”

Then Kate chooses another game. What if things spoke? What would an object say if it could? She calls out a word and my job is to give it a voice in two to three sentences. Most of my responses wouldn’t be worth editing. Fine for grandparent-grandchild play, but way too silly for a public forum. Moreover, I can’t remember all of the inanimate objects she suggests.

“Freckle,” Kate says.

A good friend calls them angel kisses. Summer has made Kate’s darker and larger, a random pattern like wildflowers scattered in a field. I see part tomboy and part let’s-pretend feminine. I see blossoming kindness, innate to her being.

But I don’t alter the game with metaphors, even if they do compliment my young granddaughter. I say something about how the fresh dark freckle chatters away to a face, and that face ignores it. Somehow, Kate finds the scenario hilarious.

Objects don’t communicate, except in fantasy. And people aren’t always that good at it either. I know I can assume. Sure, I hear what another person says. Sort of. Not on every level. That takes time.

Perhaps I’m not always clear either. It helps if I can learn to live as out loud as my grandchildren. Celebrate life as it comes. Learn. Be. Grow. No matter what. Celebrate color as if it had the power of breath, and recognize the power of dreams.

I dream in color

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“I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change—only the depth of my seeing.” (Mary Oliver)

In a small Indiana town I stand admiring a gravestone from the mid-nineteenth century—it bears my name. Sure, I added my husband’s  surname more than forty years ago, but I wore this one until I married. And that part of me exists, if only in the past. I have no idea who this woman was, or anything about her husband, Leonard. However, there is something sobering about seeing your name engraved on a gravestone, something that triggers the imagination.

As I wonder through the roughly parallel lines of monuments I see other graves with the same last name I had. My father didn’t know all his relatives. And he lived in Indiana for several years. I don’t know the full story about the distancing among those persons, only one incident that stands out because it reveals my dad as an innocent, vulnerable child.

He had an uncle, known to be cruel. At my father’s home he asked my father if he wanted to see a match burn twice. Dad always had a scientific mind. And, like all children he understood words at face value. The uncle lit his cigar, and then burned my father’s young arm. Dad howled and his mother came to his aid. She asked the uncle to leave and never come back.

No one else in that family ever returned either. The family tie burned as well. I never asked for the uncle’s name. The mama in me had the same reaction as his. I dismissed the uncle, too. Now my father has died.

I look at the layering of graves, from the earliest to the most recent. Moss covers some. The oldest are swallowed by black algae as well as yellow and green lichens. Time, rain, and wind have erased names, memories. No flowers decorate the older side. However, the past leaves unanswered questions. This person lived only twelve years and this one managed to reach his eighties. Unusual for early 1800. Personalities lose their touch. What color hair did she have? Did he treat his wife as an equal, or with the attitude of the times? Even the most ornate statue remains carved stone. It never speaks, leaves clues about the human spirit.

My meditative stroll reminds me of the last four lines of Robert Frost’s poem, “In a Disused Graveyard:”

It would be easy to be clever

And tell the stones: Men hate to die

And have stopped dying now forever.

I think they would believe the lie.

A baby sparrow hops among the stones. I maintain my distance. Unnecessary fear helps no living creature. He is no longer in that area when I return ten minutes later. Perhaps he has found his way to the sky. Perhaps not. I can’t help him any more than I can help my father’s long-ago past, or anyone’s past—including mine.

Instead I fly back into the moment: overcast, yet warm, externally quiet, internally alive with possibilities. The secret is to stay in the present and to love with as much power as I have. Now. On this June day. I pray to remember that, for longer than it takes to think it.

Peace to all, continuously renewed.

(pic from Morning Coach.com)

only live once MorningCoach

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